I went to Barter Books in Alnwick last week and was really delighted to find these books:
From the bottom up they are:
Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell – this was right at the top of a bookcase, far too high up for me to reach, but a helpful member of staff got it down for me. It’s one I’ve had on my wishlist since I read The Hand that First Held Mine, which I thought was excellent. This is her sixth book and is a portrait of a family in crisis during the heatwave in 1976.
The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate – this is the book to read in October for Cornflower’s Reading Group. I read about on the morning I was going to Barter Books was amazed to find a good hardback copy just as though I’d reserved it. The shooting party takes place in autumn 1913 – ‘Here is a whole society under the microscope, a society soon to be destroyed.’ I began reading it in the shop whilst having a cup of coffee and it promises to be really good.
Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie – I always check which Agatha Christie books are in at Barter Books. Sometimes there aren’t any I haven’t read, but this time there were two. This one does not feature Poirot or Miss Marple, not like the TV adaptation that had Miss Marple (in the form of Geraldine McEwan), solving the mystery. In her Autobiography Agatha Christie wrote that ‘of her detective books the two that satisfy me best are Crooked House and Ordeal by Innocence.’ (An Autobiography page 538)
Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie – I was so pleased to find this book as it’s one of the best-selling books of all time and one I’ve never read, although I remember the basics of the plot from TV/film versions. I’ve beenlooking out for it for ages. The book was originally published in 1939, when the title would have given little offence in the UK, but it was different in the USA and it was first published there in 1940, a few months later, as And Then There Were None. This copy was published in 1968 in the UK and still has its original title, as the book continued to be published under this title until 1985 . I was quite startled, though, to see the cover picture showing a golliwog:
I’m looking forward to reading all of them – and the pleasurable problem now is deciding which one to read first – it maybe Ten Little Niggers! Again quoting from her Autobiography, Agatha Christie wrote that:
It was well received and reviewed, but the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been. (page 488)
Yesterday I went to Barter Books in Alnwick, a superb secondhand bookshop where you can not only buy books but exchange books. I took a pile along and came back with some more and am still in credit for more books for my next visit. It’s a great way to recycle books.
I have written about Barter Books before, but not posted any photos of what it’s like inside. It is in a huge old railway station, built in 1887 and closed to passengers in 1968.
(Click on the photos to see more detail)
There is a cafe in what used to be the station waiting room where we refreshed ourselves with coffee and toasted teacakes in front of a roaring fire. The painting on the wall above the fireplace shows the station as it was in 1908 when the future King George V and Queen Mary visited Alnwick.
We then browsed the shelves. There are all sorts of books, fiction, non fiction, first editions, valuable antiquarian books, signed copies, maps, dvds, pamphlets and so on.
In one section there is a miniature overhead railway line with trains passing every few minutes.
Some came from Barter Books in Alnwick. For a while now I’ve been trying to make some space on the bookshelves. I find it very hard to let any books go, but as I have a large number of unread books I decided to be ruthless and think about the books I have read and whether I would I ever read them again. I managed to weed out 25 books and on Tuesday we took them to Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. It is housed in a huge old railway station, built in 1887 and closed to passengers in 1968. Now it’s a bookshop that works on a swap system – you take books in and if they accept them you receive a credit and can then use that to get more books. You can, of course, just go and buy books as well. They accepted 22 of our books and I came away with just 6, so I have achieved a small amount of shelf space.
The books I ‘bought’ were three Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus books to complete our set (I have read these already), and an early novel of his, Watchman, which I haven’t read. The other two books were gardening books:
Ground Force: Practical Garden Projectsby Tommy Walsh. This was published to accompany the TV series – as long ago as 1997! I remember it well, as it was one of those programmes that actually demonstrated how to do things.
Collins Outdoor DIY Projects in a Weekend by Albert Jackson and David Day.
Both these books were my husband’s choice. They are full of practical things to do and make such as making a bird table, building a cascade, making a compost bin, laying paving stones and decking etc.
And he found this book on Amazon, The Stream Garden by Archie Skinner and David Arscott, all about creating and planting your own natural-looking water feature. The reason behind his choice is that we want to improve the little stream that runs through our garden. I posted a video of its current condition on my other blog Margaret’s Miscellany last Sunday. I’d love our stream to look something like this:
Books to read next:
I finished a couple of books this week – The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe, which I wrote about earlier and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday, which I’ll write about soon. Reading Coe’s book reminded me of Mary Webb’s Gone To Earth, so I got that down off the shelf and I’m thinking of reading it this week. I read it several times as a young teenager and loved it. I’m curious to find out what I think of it now.
I had to move all my to-be-read books out of the living room this week because we’re having a wood-burning stove installed and I didn’t want the books to get covered in brick dust etc. This got me looking at what I have in waiting, as it were, and I think I’ll choose one of these books to read next:
The search for a house is still on! House hunting has been top of our priorities this last week, so much so that I’ve been neglecting this blog. If only it was as easy to find a house as it is to find books, but as we were looking around the area where Barter Books is, it would have been impossible not to come away without buying any.
Barter Books is a beautiful secondhand bookshop, one of the largest in the country. It’s in what used to be a Victorian railway station on the main road into Alnwick in Northumberland and I’d love to live nearby (there are houses for sale, one is very near!) . There are shelves and shelves of books to browse. I restricted myself both in time spent there, otherwise I would have been there all day, and in the number of books I bought – just two hardbacks of the Collected Works of Agatha Christie comprising Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, The ABC Murders, Death on the Nile and They Do It With Mirrors and a paperback copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride.
Then one day whilst in Wooler having lunch in Breeze, which is a lovely giftshop, art gallery and coffee shop I just happened to notice that they were also selling secondhand books and I bought an excellent hardback copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Wooler is a small market town at the edge of the Cheviots set in the most beautiful countryside and we would like to live there. The Wooler Community website describes it as the “natural gateway to Glendale and Northumberland National Park”. Bamburgh with its impressive castle is not far away.
I really shouldn’t be buying any more books at all as we don’t have any more space to keep them in the house we live in now and one of the requirements for a new house is that there has to be space for all our books – a separate room would be ideal but failing that enough wallspace to take all the bookcases. Even with that in mind I still bought two more books in one of the motorway service stations on the way north. I keep reading about how good Steig Larsson’s books are so when I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire in the “Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price” books I bought them.